9 May 2009

Somalia: Street Battles, Targeted Killings in Mogadishu

At least five people were wounded Saturday in the Somali capital Mogadishu as pro-government forces and insurgent militias battled over control of a police station, Radio Garowe reports.

The fighting erupted in Mogadishu's Yaaqshiid district, forcing local businesses to shut down and temporarily stopping the movement of human and vehicle traffic in the district.

A spokesman for Hizbul Islam rebel faction, who did not identify himself, told Mogadishu media that pro-government forces attacked a police station under the rebels' control.

"We [Hizbul Islam] were attacked by a government officer named Abdullahi Mo'allim, and the objective was to take control of the police station and we defended ourselves," the unidentified spokesman said.

He refused to say whether or not today's battle is connected to sporadic fighting in Mogadishu in recent weeks, but residents said the fighting was strictly between pro-government and anti-government Islamist fighters.

Separately, gunfire was heard along Industry Road in Mogadishu with witnesses saying bullets were exchanged between Al Shabaab rebels and the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) militia, a pro-government Islamist faction.

Unconfirmed reports said the Al Shabaab fighters included non-Somalis, with some reports describing the foreigners as Arabs, Pakistanis and Afghanis.

Two men who were reportedly members of the ICU militia were shot and killed by masked gunmen in Mogadishu's Bakara Market, witnesses said.

The killers escaped and business at Bakara came to a complete halt until the two dead bodies were removed.

No group has claimed responsibility for the targeted killing, but Mogadishu has seen a spate of assassinations for years.

Today's violence comes a day after Islamic scholars declared that the president of Somalia, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, has accepted a ceasefire.

Somalia has not had an effective national government since the eruption of civil war in 1991.

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